The president of the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Hay River says recent federal government funding will help keep the building open.
On March 2, financial support of $10,849 was announced to help pay for operational costs at the Legion, along with the same amount for branches in Yellowknife and Fort Smith.
Vince McKay, president of Branch 250 in Hay River, said the funding is very important.
“In normal circumstances, we could rent out our facilities,” he said. “However, we’re not allowed to rent them out due to the pandemic or utilize the building as we normally would to bring in income. So with that lost income, it’s been a struggle.”
McKay noted that, in a cold month, the branch pays about $1,000 a week for heating fuel, which is in addition to other bills and salaries.
If that was not enough of a challenge, he noted that, at the end of December, there were boiler problems which cost about $6,000 to fix.
“So every little bit like this funding helps pay those bills,” McKay said of the federal support.
The money came from the Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund, which is part of the federal government’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan to protect jobs, provide emergency support and keep businesses afloat through the pandemic.
In November, Ottawa provided $14 million to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Dominion Command to allow for the rapid distribution of financial aid to individual branches across the country. Dominion Command was responsible for determining which branches would receive funding.
The financial support for the NWT branches was announced by Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod on behalf of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
“Royal Canadian Legion branches have supported veterans, their families, and their communities for generations,” said McLeod in a news release. “Through the Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund, our government is helping branches continue to provide their important services here in the NWT and across the country.”
McKay was asked if he believes the funding will keep the Legion in Hay River going until things get back to normal.
“Honestly, I don’t know if without renting the way we used to rent if we could make it through another cold winter,” he said. “But we made it through this winter so far and that was the key thing. We got over the hump between December and February.”
McKay noted that, right now, most of Branch 250’s income comes from its lounge.
However, the lounge’s capacity has been restricted to 50 from its normal 100.
Last year, Branch 250 was also shut down from March until July because of the Covid-19 pandemic.